No Time to Die

[4.0 stars] [IMDB Link] [Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

I kind of miss the ludicrous demises of villains in old James Bond movies. Oddjob getting electrocuted by his hat. Goldfinger getting squoze out the airplane window. Inflated Kananga. Mr. Kidd en fuego. Etc. There's some of that here, but it's mostly people getting shot in the face.

The opening scene has a (very) young Madeleine Swann in peril from a killer in a Noh mask. She does quite a bit of damage, and only survives due to luck and unexplained mercy. Flash forward to years later when she's taken up with James Bond (it helps to be able to remember the details of their relationship in the previous movie, Spectre). At one point, Bond tells her "We have all the time in the world."

Aw, man. As viewers/readers of the movie/book On Her Majesty's Secret Service may remember, that's a line that doesn't bode well for a long-lasting relationship.

But in any case, their relationship is complicated by their mutual secret-keeping. It gets a little worse when Bond gets targeted by an army of assassins. He prevails (it's the beginning of the movie, after all), but is a little nonplussed that the bad guys were able to find him so easily, when only he and Madeleine knew they were going to be there. He suspects betrayal, and sends her off to Dumpsville on a train.

Jump to five years later, Bond is living the retired-spy life in Jamaica. When his old buddy Felix shows up asking for some help with tracking down a rogue bio-warfare researcher. Who's previously been shown to be in cahoots with bad guys. And…

Well, there's a lot going on. No further spoilers. I liked it OK. Very long, so plan your urination appropriately if you see it in the movies.

Always Be My Maybe

[4.0 stars] [IMDB Link] [Always Be My Maybe]

Wow, it's been over a month since I've seen a non-Marvel movie. Even longer since I've watched a romantic comedy. So maybe I was in the mood, but I liked this Netflix streamer a lot. I can imagine on a different evening I might write it off as a prefabricated flick that might have been on the Asian Hallmark Channel, if such a thing existed. (It doesn't. Does it?)

No, it wasn't prefab. It was clever and funny, brought off by talented people. Written and produced by the stars, Ali Wong and Randall Park. All respect to them.

Ms. Wong plays Sasha, Mr. Park plays Marcus. As youngsters in San Francisco, they were next-door neighbors and best friends. Their friendship continues through high school, and after one night of ill-considered passion, they go their separate ways. Marcus underperforms, assisting his dad in the HVAC biz, getting high, playing with his band ("Hello Peril", hah!) in a neighborhood dive. Sasha becomes a glamorous celebrity chef. And thanks to the devious manipulations of a longtime friend, they meet up again after years…

Reader, I'm not gonna lie: if you've seen more than a few romcoms (and who hasn't), you'll recognize the overall plot structure here. So the details matter, and so do the actors. And that made the difference for me here; it was a lot of fun, chuckles all the way through.

Consumer note: if at all possible, I suggest you see it without checking out the cast list ahead of time. No spoilers here, but someone shows up…

The Most Dangerous Game

[3.0 stars] [IMDB Link] [Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

An Amazon Prime free-to-me streamer, a colorized version of the 1932 movie. Very watchable, in a goofy way. They don't make 'em like this any more.

Joel McCrea plays a mighty big game hunter, Bob, who's returning home on a private yacht. The yacht's captain notices some odd placement of warning buoys, but the yacht's owner says, never mind that, power on through. And before you can say "I bet I know what happens next", the yacht runs into a nasty reef. Except for Bob, those who weren't blown up or drowned get eaten by sharks. (This is pretty explicit and scary.)

But Bob washes up on a convenient island, and his jungle wanderings bring him to an imposing fortress. It's the domain of exiled Russian Count Zaroff; he's very welcoming and hospitable. There are two other "guests", also shipwreck survivors, Eve (Fay Wray!) and her brother Martin (Robert Armstrong). At first Bob's just happy to be alive, but even he begins to notice there's something a bit off about the whole situation.

OK, I'll tell you: Zaroff is a psycho, and his whole lifestyle revolves around getting people to his island, then hunting them down for sport. But has he met his match in Bob?

The IMDB trivia page is pretty cool. Most notable: the island sets were used in the concurrent filming of King Kong, as was also, of course, Fay Wray.

Stillwater

[3.0 stars] [IMDB Link] [Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

If you're interested (and there's no reason you should be) we went to see this in what's called a "movie theater". Weird, right? Some of you older folks may still remember what those "movie theaters" are.

Seriously: the last movie I saw in a theater before this was 1917, about a year and a half ago.

And, for the record, I'd guess the next movie I see in a theater will be No Time to Die. Pun Son and I have a tradition of seeing Bond movies in theaters.

Anyway, this movie: Matt Damon takes on the challenging role of a decent human being a working-class Oklahoma dude named Bill. Who gets off his lousy-paying job one day to fly off to Marseille, France. We're not told the reason for such unexpected behavior, but it soon becomes apparent. He's visiting his lesbian daughter Allison in a French slammer, where she's been imprisoned for the stabbing murder of her roommate/lover. She claims innocence, and tells Bill the news that she's heard about a party where a guy claimed to have stabbed a girl without consequence. Bill is tasked with getting Allison's lawyer to have the investigation reopened.

Which isn't going to happen. The lawyer tells Bill that this hearsay evidence is insufficient to get the cops to reinvestigate. Bill can't bring himself to give Alison this bad news, so he decides to investigate on his own. Along the way, he gets involved with young Maya (cute kid!) and her mother Virginie.

It's very much a fish-out-of-water tale in addition to being a crime thriller and romance drama.

Consumer note: a lot of information is disclosed in dialog. Which, unfortunately, is often delivered by people in the throes of intensre emotion (fear and remorse, respectively). Listen very carefully!

Fun fact: this site purports to be "Stillwater Ending Explained!". But it's pretty obviously a bad English → French → English auto-translation, because Matt Damon's character "Bill Baker" is called "Invoice Baker".

The Dressmaker

[2.0 stars] [IMDB Link] [Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

A movie that's been in my Amazon Prime watchlist for quite awhile. Finally decided to get it out of there, since the Red Sox played earlier in the day, and I have zero interest in the Olympics.

Kate Winslet plays Tilly Dunnage, who (in 1951) returns after many years to her small Australian town to (a) wreak vengeance on a wrong done unto her back when she was a kid; (b) solve the mystery of what actually happened back then; (c) perhaps reconcile with Mom (Judy Davis). Who's rather unkempt, physically and mentally.

But nearly everyone in the town is mentally unkempt. Lots of secrets, resentments, perversions and frowned-upon proclivities. Tilly has picked up (see the title) dressmaking skills while she's been away, and her transformation of a town ugly duckling into a beautiful swan earns her some respectability and also cash. In addition, since she looks like Kate Winslet, she attracts the eye of Teddy (Thor's brother Liam Hensworth), perhaps the sanest person in town.

What follows is a lot of zaniness and tragedy. That particular mixture isn't my cup of tea, but you might like it. Hugo Weaving shows up in a supporting role as the town's constable, and—geez, for once—is not an unmitigated villain; he just likes to dress up occasionally.

The Tomorrow War

[3.0 stars] [IMDB Link] [Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

Hey, I like Chris Pratt. But he's made better movies. I was slightly disappointed with this Amazon Prime streamer.

He plays war veteran Dan Forester. He's got a hot wife, Emmy. A cute daughter, Muri. And an estranged dad, played by J. K. Simmons. (J. K. Simmons also lulled me into a "Hey, maybe this'll be good" attitude.)

The only problem being that a bunch of human warriors from 50 years in the future transport themselves into an exciting soccer match. And they're here to beg for help: in their time, a race of alien beings known as "whitespikes" are in the process of wiping out humanity. "Help us, past humans, you're our only hope." There's a discussion of the time-travel mechanism; it has complexities and limitiations, all of which are conveniently tailored to the plot.

The first batch of volunteers return mostly dead. As do their followups. Eventually, the process goes to conscription: folks who are gonna die soon anyway. And guess who gets roped in? Ah, good guess.

So Dan's off to the future, and it's grim. Due to a technical screwup, his group gets transported to Miami about a thousand feet too high. Which kills most of them right off the bat. But Dan is fortunate enough to fall into a swimming pool atop a highrise. (Which in reality would be deadly, but is treated here as a very high dive.) He's sent off to retrieve important research from a local lab, which involves a lot of running, shooting, and explosions. We finally get a look at the whitespikes, and they're as fast, ugly, and deadly as CGI can make them. Even with rifles with a near-infinite number of rounds, the humans are fighting a losing battle.

Hey, that's Chloe from 24! … Alas, she turns out to not be a major enough character.

The movie turns out to have a streak of gooey sentimentality at its center, a theme of familial abandonment and reconciliation. Worse than Armageddon in that regard.

Time travel movies have to deal with paradoxical issues, multiple futures, etc. I'm sure some nerd has classified the various approaches. This one seems to be similar to Back to the Future: stuff you do in the past can alter the future timeline, wiping out the previous version of events. So you can probably guess what the climax involves.


Last Modified 2021-07-21 5:54 AM EDT

Good on Paper

[2.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Good on Paper]

I've liked Iliza Shlesinger for a number of years, since I got hooked on her standup comedy specials on Netflix. Very funny, insightful, and (sorry kiddos) extremely raunchy. So I decided to take a chance on this Netflix-streamable movie. She wrote it, and she's the star, so…

The character she plays isn't much of a stretch: Andrea, a standup comic looking to break into acting. (Unfortunately, based on the excerpts we see from Andrea's routines, she's not nearly as funny as Iliza.) She's in her mid-thirties, and her professional life has overshadowed her romantic life, her relationships seem to be fleeting and shallow. Her best friend is Margot (played by Margaret Cho), lesbian bar owner, who keeps urging her to settle down before it's too late.

So Andrea meets this guy Dennis at the airport. And Dennis is charming in a dorky way. He's a Yale graduate, he's a hedge fund manager, he's got a house in Beverly Hills. Or at least (a spoiler you can pick up from the preview clip) that's what he claims. The movie follows their rocky relationship.

It's occasionally funny, but credibility is strained about two-thirds in when Andrea turns into a detective trying to find out the truth about Dennis, without wrecking their relationship. The movie claims to be based on Iliza's own experience, but I have a hard time believing that she could be as dumb as Andrea.


Last Modified 2021-07-21 6:15 AM EDT

Luca

[3.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Luca]

Thanks to our Disney+ subscription, the latest Pixar movie. It's not top-drawer Pixar, but that's still pretty good.

The premise is that sea monsters (intelligent, of course) live just off the coast of a timeless but charning Italian Riviera fishing village. The village's humans have legends of the monsters, viewing them with fear and loathing. And harpoons.

The monsters, for their part, only want to live in peace.

At this point, I think we're supposed to think to ourselves: "Who are the real monsters here, hm?" But, bless them, Pixar does not beat us over the head with this.

The monsters keep another secret under wraps: when they're on dry land, they transform into human form. So it comes as a shock to young monster Luca when this (more or less) accidentally happens to him. Fortunately, he comes under the wing flipper of young Alberto, a sea monster who's taken up land-living on his own.

Luca and Alberto become fast friends, become obsessed with young-boy things. Specifically, they become obsessed with getting their hands on a Vespa motor scooter. (They really are things of beauty.) Which draws them into the fishing village, meeting young human girl Giulia. She has a dream of her own, namely winning the yearly village race from the perennial champ (and the movie's villain) Ercole.

Whew. And that's just the beginning.

Parker

[3.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

This movie is based on one of the later Parker novels by "Richard Stark" (Donald Westlake), Flashfire. Jason Statham steps into the role of the amoral antihero with no first name. (Previous actors playing Parker: Lee Marvin, Mel Gibson, Peter Coyote, Robert Duvall. It's made for tough guys.)

Parker is in on a heist at the Ohio State Fair with some thieves. (Right away you notice that Statham's Parker is kind of a softie compared to book-Parker, persuading a frightened security guard into cooperation instead of just shooting him.) But the caper goes well except for a diversionary fire set in the wrong place, leading to bystander casualties. Unfortunately, the gang plans to use the proceeds to finance an even bigger score. Parker objects, leading to serious violence and he's left for dead on the side of a lonely highway.

The end? Of course not. Parker recovers, and immediately sets out to track down the gang that betrayed him. Along the way he meets Leslie (J Lo!), a beautiful but failing real estate agent. She gets involved in his revenge plan, of course. (Otherwise they could have used a much cheaper actress in that role.) And there's an obligatory boob scene, but not J Lo.

It's not bad, not great. A good movie for an evening when there's no Red Sox game.

The Mitchells vs the Machines

[3.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [The Mitchells vs the Machines]

We've been watching a lot of baseball of late. And, thanks to my Disney+ subscription and Roku, I've been re-watching the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies. (Rewatched movies don't get blogged.) But the mood to watch something different took me, and I heard good things about this, so…

It's OK. Very funny in spots, draggy in others. The heroine is young Katie Mitchell, who is headed off to college to major in some sort of movie-making. She's bounding with energetic creativeness, and views her family with increasing disdain. Especially Dad, who's increasingly frantic about Katie's independence. So he hatches a desperate scheme: cancel Katie's plane tickets, load the family into the car for one last road trip. Cross-country to Katie's college. To bond.

Things are complicated by a robotic/AI apocalypse.

How does that happen? Well, a Zuckerbergian character in charge of a Facebook/Apple-like company introduces his new product: an army of "helpful" faceless robots. Unfortunately, he snubs his previous product, an AI who takes offense. Who proceeds to wreak havoc on the entire world. That'll teach them! The Mitchells turn out to be humanity's last hope for salvation.

Oh, yeah, Katie's apparently a lesbian. Presented as no big deal. Kids these days.


Last Modified 2021-06-18 10:39 AM EDT